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Worried farmers facing further anguish

By Emily Moulton

A nationwide ban on the movement of livestock has been reimposed following a new outbreak of foot and mouth disease in England, plunging farmers back into another crisis.

Yesterday the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed they had found infected cattle at a farm in Egham, Surrey, just four days after the Government had declared the outbreak was over.

A 10km protection zone was put in place at Hardwick Park Farm, which is about 10 miles from the previous outbreak, and all infected cattle have been destroyed.

So far the origin of the virus has not been identified. But the last outbreak at two farms near Normandy, Surrey were caused by a leak from the Pirbright laboratory site nearby.

Precautionary steps were taken in Northern Ireland last night to ensure the province remained foot and mouth free - as it did during August's outbreak.

However there was a false alarm in Scotland.

Tests had to be carried out on a sheep in Lanarkshire after it had showed signs of sickness but the tests came back negative for the disease.

Tests were also being carried out at another farm at Hindolveston, Norfolk after an animal, which is believed to be a pig, became ill early yesterday.

A Defra spokeswoman said the tests were being carried out as a precaution and that results should be known some time today. (thurs) A temporary control zone has also been put around the premises.

Last night Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged that the Government would do

everything in its power to get to the "root causes" of this outbreak.

He was speaking following a meeting with the Government's emergency Cobra contingencies committee at Downing Street.

"I can say that we will do everything in our power to get to the root cause. We are investigating a number of possible explanations.

"I don't think it is possible to say at this stage what was the cause of this particular outbreak, but I do say that, at all times, we will be absolutely vigilant."

In addition to the new movement ban, there are now restrictions on livestock markets and shows, the movement of animal carcasses, shearing and dipping, as well as requirements for increased levels of biosecurity on farms.

Inside the protection and surveillance zones, there are also controls on movement of dung and manure as well as treatment of animal products to ensure the FMD virus is destroyed.

Mr Brown urged farmers to co-operate with measures needed to prevent the spread of foot and mouth.

Peter Kendall, president of the NFU, said this latest outbreak was enough to "leave the industry devastated".

"At the weekend the whole industry breathed a collective sigh of relief that we had moved on. This has set us right back.

"There is a real sense of deja vu that it is happening again, and how long will it go on for?

"August is a very big month for livestock sales. That has all had to be condensed into September, and now we have been shut down again.

"It has enormous ramifications for the whole production systems."

It was estimated the cost of exports, including meat, meat products and dairy, was £1.8 million per day - a sum which will be lost due to restrictions in the wake of the latest outbreak.

A NFU spokesman said last month's outbreak is likely to cost the farming industry between £50 million and £80 million.

Belfast Telegraph


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